Viktor Kerney

The Top 10 Potential Presidential Candidates for HRC

Filed By Viktor Kerney | October 07, 2011 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: Amanda Simpson, Daniel O'Donnell, Hilary Rosen, HRC, Human Rights Campaign, Jason Bartlett, Joe Solmonese, Kate Kendell, Keith Boykin, leadership, LGBT rights, Mara Keisling, Masen Davis, Randi Weingarten, top 10 list, top ten list, Urvashi Vaid

As most of you know, Joe Solmonese had chosen not renew his contract as HRC President in 2012. Many in our community are wondering who will take his place. Tons of names have been thrown around like Dan Choi and Dan Savage, but I created a list of ten highly qualified leaders that could move the HRC in an progressive direction.


The list is after the break.

1. Amanda Simpson - Currently, she is the Senior Technical Adviser to the Department of Commerce. Amanda is also the first transgender presidential appointee and serves on the board of the National Center for Transgender Equality. I think Amanda has the savvy to keep the HRC moving forward while inspiring others to fight for equality.

2. Keith Boykin - He is the former aide to President Bill Clinton and served as president of the board of the National Black Justice Coalition. He also has written books on LGBT people of color and is editor of The Daily Voice. Keith has a rich history in the LGBT political movement. I believe he could be the leader we need for the HRC.

3. Daniel J. O' Donnell - Daniel is a member of the New York State Assembly. He's a strong advocate for LGBT rights; O'Donnell pushed the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act and played a huge role in achieving marriage equality in New York. Daniel's fierce advocacy is very much needed in the battle to defend DOMA.

4. Jason Bartlett - Jason is a successful business man and politician. He served as state representative in Connecticut and a Deputy Director of the National Black Justice Coalition. Jason's skills in the business and political world could be very helpful in the organization's growth.

5. Urvashi Vaid - What can I say about Urvashi? She served as the executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, worked with the Ford Foundation, and served as Executive Director of the Arcus Foundation. This woman is a true leader and a force within the LGBT movement. Her leadership could move the organization forward and upward.

6. Hilary Rosen - Hilary is currently Managing Director of the Public Affairs and Communications Practice of SKDKnickerbocker. She is a very skilled nationally strategist in Washington and served as the interim director for the Human Rights Campaign several years ago. Hilary knows how to walk the line and still deliver results.

7. Kate Kendell - Kate is the executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Under her leadership, Kate has taken NCLR to the next level. Her advocacy for social justice is well-known and I think she could strengthen HRC's efforts.

8. Randi Weingarten - She was named one of the 25 most powerful women in New York City business. Randi is the current president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and has launched several initiatives to improve education reform. One of her recent efforts is See a Bully - Stop a Bully, a campaign to address bullying in schools. Randi is a fighter. Her drive and passion could be paramount in the HRC.

9. Mara Keisling - She is the founder and executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. She was also one of the leaders of UnitedENDA, an initiative to pass a Trans-inclusive ENDA in 2005. Mara's tireless support and determination could help mend the bridge between the Trans community and the HRC.

10. Masen Davis - Masen is the executive director of the Transgender Law Center, a civil rights organization fighting for transgender communities. He also co-founded the FTM Alliance of Los Angeles and served on several boards supporting LGBT rights. Masen has a strong background in fundraising and his passion equality could be great for the HRC.

If you don't know any of these names on the list, please follow up on these great leaders. Who would you add to the list? What would your top ten list look like?

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I applaud you for adding three trans people on the list. Mara would probably not even accept, because it could cripple NCTE's progress and projects. She has her hands full and she seems not to move on before she finishes when she started.

Mason is a good possibility, because his absence from the TLC would not put as big of a hole there as Mara leaving NCTE.

Amanda is a great choice, but what is her commitment with the Department of Commerce? Is it something she can leave easily? Would she want to? There are a lot of question with her on this.

The other seven are good choices, but I know about some of them more than others.

Hilary Rosen?? Hilary Rosen is Joe Salmonese in drag. A Hilary Rosen presidency would cement HRC's long-standing reputation as truly ineffectual. What HRC needs is someone who will shake this tired behemoth out of its torpor, and Hilary Rosen ain't it. More of the same.

The likelihood of the HRC picking a trans person as its head is below zero. Nor does the HRC want an "activist". Since Joe seems to be having a large amount of input as to his successor (can anyone say Putin/Medvedev?) So yes, Hilary Rosen is EXTREMELY likely.

Actually, if HRC truly wants to get past its troubles with the trans community and progressive left with an eye toward resuming a leadership role in LGBT activism then making a trans person the president of the org would be an inspired move. It would force many of of us to take a second look and question the assumptions we've had about them for a very long time. Of course, they'd have to follow up on that with real action, but it certainly would get people to sit up and pay attention.

In the past, I've suggested Donna Rose as the perfect choice, but I also think Allyson Robinson and Diego Sanchez would be excellent candidates as well. Both are well-respected in the LGBT and especially trans community, and both would be taken far more seriously on trans issues than any non-transperson.

"Actually, if HRC truly wants to get past its troubles with the trans community and progressive left"

Who says they do? They want a fundraiser and DC establishment insider, not a community liaison. This is the HRC we're talking about.

Agreed, but I think the selection of a trans person to the position would send a strong message to the community about how they plan to engage with the greater community and what their priorities will be going forward.

I believe that whoever they actually do pick for the job will likely speak volumes about what we can expect from HRC in the future.

Another excellent trans candidate: Dana Beyer

Keith Boykin, Daniel O'Donnell, and Jason Bartlett seem promising, along with Kate Kendell and Hillary Rosen. Dan Savage sounds appealing but his direct and non-political style probably disqualifies him. I really think Bevan Dufty, assuming he does not become mayor of San Francisco, would be a great choice. I am thinking maybe a Christian pastor like Yvette Flunder or Michael Piazza could help by continuing to build bridges and educating Americans to understand that gay individuals and families are not less Christian, less moral, or less family-oriented than heterosexuals. Obviously, it would make absolutely no sense to put a transgender person as the head of a gay civil rights organization.

It's not just a gay civil rights organisation, they're not so narrowly focussed. It's a gay and lesbian civil rights organisation.

It is redundant and grammatically incorrect to say 'gay and lesbian'. It is the same as saying 'humans and Africans' or 'dogs and collies'. Lesbians are gay by definition (they are gay women).

Anyone who has lived through the '70s (and paid attention) knows that "gay and lesbian" came about because the women felt that the term "gay" had such a male connotation that it made the women invisible.

To this day, I tend to agree -- in fact, even moreso today, because the ubiquity of the phrases "gay and lesbian" and/or "lesbian and gay" has, paradoxically, re-inforced the originally objected-to idea that "gay" means male and "lesbian" means female.

So, DB, you may be technically correct -- but the history of gay (and lesbian) rhetoric is not in agreement with you.

but not so widely focused that they actually include those pesky bisexual, trans* and queer-identified people (except for purposes of fund-raising)

Except the part where trans people can be gay or lesbian or bisexual. Don't worry though, the chances of the HRC having a trans person in a leadership position is as likely as the NCLR having trans women on staff instead of trans men.

Rachel Bellum | October 8, 2011 1:50 AM

HRC = "Obviously, it would make absolutely no sense to put a transgender person as the head of a gay civil rights organization."

Really, really???

From the HUMAN Rights Campaign website: "Works for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights by lobbying the federal government, educating the public, participating in election campaigns, ..."

So here we have gays saying that trans people should be categorically excluded from HRC because it is a "gay rights organization" regardless of its own mission statement which includes trans people, and in the other Movement thread which was posted on the same day we have gays taking a book about trans women in prison and appropriating it as a push for "queer community" causes.

Hypocritical much?

Kathy Padilla | October 7, 2011 1:35 PM

Re: #1 - to take nothing away from the extremely admirable Amanda - Dylan Orr was an appointee to the Obama Administration prior to her. Her electoral experience is another real positive to add to the equation.

Neither of them had a "Presidential Appointment" as the nomenclature goes - but Lynn Conway was a "Presidential Appointee" to the Air Force Academy Board of Overseers back in the Clinton adim. Though - I believe Lynn was not out publicly regarding her trans history.

Personally, (1) Urvashi Vaid, and (2) Keith Boykin, a close second ... presuming that either one is interested in such a position.

Let's look at what the HRC needs, really, as their leader. Excluding the politics within the community, one has to wonder about what it is they will be looking for.

The Board of the HRC is a group of very strong personalities. All of whom have personally raised a sizeable chunk of funds and continue to do so each year.

So this person will need a very strong personality to handle them, but also be able to reign it back a bit so as to note step too hard on the toes of the people who are their boss.

One of the big jobs that is involved here is fundraising. We can bitchabout how that seems to be all that someone in that job does, but, well, really, that *is* their job.

So it needs to be someone who is good at getting people to give their money.

It needs to be someone who has a strong drive and will to succeed -- and who comes to the position with a very definite set of goals and a strong plan to achieve such.

That plan and those goals must meet the mission of the HRC, and they have to catch the board on fire, so they have to be strong and address the concerns of many people from different backgrounds (including, I'll note, a trans person).

They need to be someone who can move among the staffs and teams of people in Washington DC. THey don't have to be someone who knows all the big political players, but they need to understand not only the political scene, but the nature of the system that surrounds government and politics -- the staff members of the elected, the policy making people's staffs, and similar.

They need to be committed to LGBT rights and efforts. THis one a lot of people will take as a granted, but keep in mind that one doesn't have to be a member of the LGBT to head the HRC. I promise you that the Board is aware of that.

They need to be someone who is drama free. SO it can't be anyone who's publicly called another person something nasty in the last 5 years or so.

They need to be a competent manager who can direct the activities of a staff and stay within budget and come up with effective tools and be able to pick the right people for the right job.

Which is hard.

They have to be pretty familiar with all of this stuff *right now*. THis isn't stuff that can be learned on the job, this is what they have to come to the table with, just to start.

After you get through those things, then you have the not so exciting aspect of dealing with the social politics involved. For example, hiring Hilary Rosen would ultimately not benefit the relationship they have with the trans community, given Ms Rosen's previous relationships. She is, after all, the attack dog for RIAA and the Ex of a previous leader of the HRC.

But I will say that she's competent and capable.

Urvashi Vaid and Kate Kendell could both pull the job off.

Other candidates might come from the worlds of big business or venture capital, tech companies or think tanks.

Solomonese himself came from Emily's List -- a strong, competent leader who built the List into a powerful force that was once reckoned with.

When we play "who could it be next?" like this, we need to seriously look at the minimum needs of the position, and then remember not to have our blinders on.

THere are people out there who can seriously offer a lot, that might not be anyone that anyone has ever heard much of because they aren't found on the blogs or haven't had a newsworthy moment outside of some trade publication.

Which isn't to say your list isn't a great list, Viktor -- and on a personal level, I'm thrilled that you recognized peeps of color and trans folk -- just to say that the list is both harder to find people for and more difficult to select than it often seems on the surface.

How about?
Washington state senator Ed Murray - politically savvy - pushed hard to get a trans inclusive antidiscrimination law and domestic partnerships that were upheld in a referendum -
Ellen DeGeneres - well known, puts conservatives at ease with LGBT people

Regarding suggestions such as Ellen DeGeneres ...

It would be a possibility to pick a well-known celebrity to head HRC -- but such people tend to have successful careers of their own that they do not want to interrupt. Plus, we must remember that these people are entertainers, they are not business administrators -- and that is why most big celebrities have "managers" or "agents". A celebrity head would end up being a "spokesperson" and not the chief administrator that HRC -- especially HRC in its current state -- needs now, and needs badly.

I composed a comment, then decided not to post ... but essentially, it is fortunate that the public scene today now includes openly LGBT personalities that, to be a bit blunt, are "bigger" than being the head of HRC. I expect David Mixner or Andrew Tobias or Tim Gill or Kevin Jennings could do a great job -- but any of these persons might be busy helping Obama get re-elected in the coming months, and choosing between that focus and heading HRC would be a difficult life decision.

Being a transsexual, it would be nice to have a someone from the community as president of HRC, but honestly, I don't believe its necessary. I am one that is happy with the support we get from HRC, and no I am not blind, I do know what happened in the past. We have come a long way and it just does not make sense to play the "poor us card" any longer.

Honestly curious Tammie, what support have you received from the HRC, because many of the "we" have been looking for it and aren't seeing it.

Why no mention of finding a new president from within the HRC organization?

I'm sure many of those folks worked very hard to reach a level of achievement within HRC and have good experience to build upon. Is there an assumption that everyone in that current organization shares the views or style of Joe Solmonese?

Keep in mind, suddenly bringing an outsider to run an organization can decrease motivation, cause departures, which makes it even less effective or able to change in positive direction.

Allyson Robinson is from within HRC, and arguably so is Dana Beyer even though she's not working with them anymore.

Doesn't the "who" have a lot to do with the "what"?

WHAT HRC wants to do will dictate WHO they get to do it.

And a huge part of Joe's job was massive fundraising - thus the (rumored) large % raised incentives that were (rumored) to be part of his pay package.

Looking at some of the names on the list I find it difficult to image how a few of them would reconcile their passionate activism with such a ....cautious, political-agenda-driven organization.

We can always hope, though, that the person they choose will be able to heal some of the wounds and bring the various factions in the LGBT community closer together.

Angela Brightfeather | October 10, 2011 10:56 AM

There were three gay males mentioned on the list. The odds are 75 to 25 that one of them will head up HRC in the future.
If you have to ask that, then I suggest you not throw your money away on any other choices.

We all know that the person who is picked must be totally committed to the marriage issue first. After that, they have to do all the other business as usual things that people have noted like fund raising, etc. But it all comes back to the marriage issue as the main focus for the next four or five years for HRC and anything else is just frosting on the cake and change in your left hand pocket.

Whoever they pick will stand in front of you and say that an inclusive ENDA is important to them and it won't be a Trans person saying it, because hell has no fury equal to an HRC Board of Directors spurned and dragged through the coals for what happened this last time with ENDA. Besides, that is just to progressive for HRC to even consider.

No, I would venture to guess that the next person looking down at us and lying about ENDA will be a gay, white, male, with a big smile on his face and with every intention of doing everything he can to advance SSM first and when successful, handing over the reigns to someone else, just like Joe did after DADT was repealed. Won't that look great on his updated resume though?

If I had to bet money on this, I would say that the head of SLDN, Aubrey Sarvis is directly in line for cosideration, since he is most likely looking for a new challenge and was very successful leading the DADT repeal and showed great leadership, inspiration and political savvy. He has the background, the connections and lots of credit in his political account to draw from also. I think that he could probably use the raise and HRC would be stupid to overlook him as a strong possibility.

I suspect whoever they pick, it'll be someone who's a good fundraiser before someone who has good politics. Someone with connections, etc.

I'll also throw this out there: the XD has little influence over the politics of the organization. Solmonese went rogue by promising trans activists at Southern Comfort HRC wouldn't support a GI-less ENDA, and then look what happened several months later when the board of directors was faced with that very situation.

The position is for a fundraiser, not an activist.

Susan Stanton? No, that wouldn't work. Oh gosh we are missing the obvious choice, Barney Frank. Good fund raiser, check. Connected on the hill, check. Able to leap tall buildings and take on the press, check. Schmoozer, check.

We have separate identity and issues from gay men, we are Lesbians, not "gay women"

Well, the Chicago White Sox just named a new manager, Robin Ventura, and he was someone that not one, NOT ONE, of the sports writers and self-appointed pundits had mentioned as a possibility. In fact, Ventura doesn't have even five minutes experience as a coach or manager at any level of professional baseball. Or college. Maybe he did some volunteer work at one of his kid's high school.

I hope HRC doesn't go to that extreme of inexperience, but I wouldn't be surprised if the next leader of that organization is no where mentioned on this page. If I had to wager, I'd say it won't be a white, gay male just because they tend to alternate sexes, at least.

I suggest a contract be offered to Hillary Clinton to shake things up.

Hey Robin Ventura was a member of the 2000 NL Champion New York Mets. If there's anything the Cubbies could certainly use, it's some championship experience!